Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Continuing the Conversation ~ Readers as Gatekeepers . . .

Readers as Gatekeepers For new folks—we’re having a continuing conversation on Mondays and Wednesdays; and, in about 11 weeks, it will also be on Fridays (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday will remain re-blogs from a select group of writers...)….

I said “continuing” because, even if no one comments on a post, I’ll keep the conversation going by myself :-)

So, the post last Wednesday—Continuing the Conversation ~ Shifting to Self-Publishing—looked into certain myths of Traditional publishing and measured those against certain truths of Self-publishing.

And, there was a comment on that post, by a good friend of mine—author and prison librarian; but, before I began writing this post we had a rousing discussion about the comment he made and it helped me clarify what he was aiming at.

That discussion happened in a virtual world (Kitely) that we both visit regularly…

Here’s his comment on Wednesday’s Conversation post:

“I admit I enjoy Nicholas Sparks and his clichés, heartstring pulling predictable formulas. I need it sometimes. He offers advice to writers on his webpage and explains:

“‘Publishers are generally less willing to take big chances in “growing” an author. They want books that will sell, and usually sell right away. If they don’t think yours will sell, odds are, they won’t take a chance on it. Why? A major reason is because authors in general have become more prolific. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner have fewer published novels combined than any number of contemporary novelists—Roberts, King, Koontz, Steel, etc.

“‘Why does this matter? Suppose a person reads about eight books a year. Odds are, the person also has a list of contemporary authors in their mind who are already favorites. Then there are the backup authors who they sometimes read. Then there are those authors whom they’ve heard of over the years who they might be willing to try out if the circumstances are right (at a rack in the airport, for instance). For most people, that’s coming up on eight books already. So why would they take a chance on someone new?’

“His solution was to write those easy tear jerking formulas. My feeling is this is why you should consider self publishing. I don’t want my metaphors and scenery to be written because they are perfect for the beach vacationer. That being said I never miss a book or movie of his.”


My friend likes a bestselling, traditionally-published author…

And, I made my friend’s Main Point go blue so it would stand out…

And, he’s given you many words from that author he likes…

I’ll comment on a few of the things Mr. Sparks said:

Publishers are generally less willing to take big chances in ‘growing’ an author. They want books that will sell, and usually sell right away.”

There are Self-publishing authors whose books sell big and right away—they work hard to make that happen; but, at least, they maintain control of the copyright and everything else that happens to their books…

“If they don’t think yours will sell, odds are, they won’t take a chance on it. Why? A major reason is because authors in general have become more prolific.”

While Sparks commenting on authors being more prolific is, in essence, true, I think a more important reason Traditional publishers won’t take a chance on a book they think won’t sell is they’re totally profit-oriented…

Plus, when you dig a bit, you’ll find that the big publishers are quite often wrong about what books will sell—and, there are plenty of self-published authors who sell well and their books aren’t what trad. publishers think will sell…

And, the paragraph about folks reading 8 books a year so why would they take a chance on something new?

Well, the Self-publishing World is in the process of changing the “gatekeepers” of traditional publishing into Readers as Gatekeepers.

All the forums and book blogs and social media and other sites where readers can give their opinions are a “leveling effect”…

I feel that, eventually, most publishing will be by the individual authors; and, who sells most will be the ones who engage readers enough so they’ll give the authors a shout-out…

I’m a Self-published author—my all-time favorite fiction author is C. J. Cherryh; and, her 60+ novels are all Traditionally published…

And, my librarian/author friend loves a Traditionally published author; yet he can say:

“My feeling is this is why you should consider self publishing. I don’t want my metaphors and scenery to be written because they are perfect for the beach vacationer.”



Did this part of our conversation make you feel like you want to say something in the Comments?

If not, are there other topics you wish we’d discuss here…?
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4 responses to “Continuing the Conversation ~ Readers as Gatekeepers . . .

  1. Johnpaul Mahofski April 3, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    I enjoyed your responses to Spark’s comments on traditional publishing I have a few more excerpts from him.
    “Publishing is a business. Writing may be art, but publishing, when all is said and done, comes down to dollars. Keep that in mind. I say this because of the volume of mail I receive from unpublished writers who believe that “having a good story,” is enough to guarantee success.It’s not. I hate to say it, I wish it wasn’t true, but it’s not. Some of the best novels I’ve ever read never hit the best-seller list, then faded away before sadly going out of print. There are also some poorly written novels that do become best-sellers. Writing a great novel is the most important thing you can do to become a success, but sometimes it’s not enough these days.”
    While he focuses on the need of a good story at least, but then he warns that in the traditional realm one of three things must happen. I will share these but I don’t like that the writer in his world works directly with agents that require a certain flare in the art. He even tells his reader he has three unpublished books and Stephen King has 5 because they were rejected by the traditional folks.
    “These days, it seems there are only three ways for an author to hit the best-seller list with a first novel: (1) have the novel recommended by Oprah (most if not all of the books she’s chosen for Oprah’s Book Club have become best-sellers, first time author or not, like Deep End of the Ocean by Jacqueline Mitchard); (2) have the novel receive wide and lavish critical acclaim, thereby triggering the interest of the major media, like Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier; or (3) write a novel that has good word-of-mouth, i.e., a well-written book that people read and enjoy and feel compelled to recommend to others, like The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells.This doesn’t mean you can’t become a success with a later novel. Over time, quality work will lead to an audience for your work. In the end, readers always choose.”
    I believe this third category is where many of us self published devotees can excel. It seems he does not mentioning self publishing only once on his page as follows.
    “If you only want to get a book published simply for the sake of finding it in a store for a few months (it won’t stay in the store forever unless it sells), keep your day job and consider publishing the novel yourself.”


  2. Alexander M Zoltai April 4, 2018 at 8:39 am


    Off to continue the Conversation…


  3. Pingback: Our Blog Conversation Continues ~ Comparing Traditional Publishing & Self-Publishing … | Notes from An Alien

  4. Pingback: Extending the Conversation about Traditional vs Self Publishing | Notes from An Alien

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